Increased snowfall makes accommodating spring sports for Steamboat athletes even more challenging
March 5, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The term “spring” in spring sports should be used loosely.
The struggle to get spring sports up and running is not a new challenge for mountain towns, but this year’s increased snowfall has made things more difficult.
“Spring sports are a constant challenge, and I know the last couple of years have been easier because we haven't had the kind of snowfall in prior years,” Steamboat Springs athletic director Luke DeWolfe said. “So, this year, we're faced with trying to make the best of whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at us. Our coaches are great and extremely resourceful and extremely positive and make the best out of whatever they're given, and that's a huge part of being able to get through this tough beginning.”
The Steamboat Springs High School girls varsity soccer team is set to host Eagle Valley on Tuesday, March 12, and the boys varsity lacrosse team has home games against Glenwood Springs and Evergreen on Thursday, March 14, and Saturday, March 16.
Game relocation and snow removal decisions will take place later this week, and so far, six of the seven sports offered in the spring have been practicing in the high school’s two gyms. The girls tennis team practices at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
“They're able to have a gym and a turf during the same amount of time, and that time is basically about an hour and 15 minutes with an additional 15 minutes of gym time to warm up and stretch,” DeWolfe said.
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There are currently 327 athletes signed up for spring sports, which include boys and girls lacrosse, baseball, girls tennis, girls soccer, girls golf and track and field.
A turf surface is unrolled in the auxiliary gym to give athletes the feel of a field, and practice times have ranged from 2 to 9 p.m.
Snow removal at Gardner Field
The process of snow removal is a meticulous one.
Initial snow removal steps took place over Blues Break, which was Feb. 18 to 22.
First, a rubber track skid steer with a snowblower attached to it is used to blow the snow from the track onto the turf. Next, a snowcat from the mountain is used to push the snow from the turf onto the lower practice field. The lower practice field has a retention pond on the north end, where the snow eventually melts around June or July.
After this initial process, which removes several feet of snow, a plow is fitted with a rounded 6-inch pipe. The pipe is used instead of a sharp blade to prevent damage to the field surface and push smaller amounts of snowfall to the outside lanes or end zones, where the dark red track or black rubber pellet radiates heat from the sun to melt the snow.
“This year, it's unique since we have so much snow,” school district facilities manager Pascal Ginesta said. “We had everything cleaned off during break time, then we got 2 feet of snow over the weekend, and there's snow in the forecast, so we're looking at our options.”
Normally, the initial snow removal process takes place once, and routine plowing five to 10 times each spring is enough to get the facilities ready for games or track meets. With two feet of snow on the ground since the initial removal and a possible storm in the forecast, Ginesta predicts the process will have to be repeated.
Lacrosse can be played in the heaviest amounts of snow since athletes are running with the ball not touching the ground. Soccer poses a bigger challenge since the ball struggles to roll on a snowy surface. For both sports, lines are usually shoveled out, or there is an occasional plowing of the field at halftime.
Snow removal equipment is designed to treat both the track and turf with care, but naturally, years of UV exposure and snowfall at higher elevations can wear on both.
Ginesta said the life expectancy of a synthetic turf is usually 10 to 12 years.
“The new one that we installed is a little bit better product than what we had, so life expectancy is 15 to 17 years,” Ginesta added.